Many people aren’t too crazy about the idea of using a dental dam. But two dentistry students, Anisha Gupta and Carly Billing, are hoping to change that.
If you didn’t know dental dams were even still a thing, don’t feel bad. And if you’ve never even seen one before, you’re not alone.
A dental dam, also referred to as an oral dam, is a thin sheet of latex (sometimes flavored) that you hold in place over your partner’s genitals during oral sex. If you don’t engage in oral sex much, chances are you’ll probably never need one. But for those that do, dental dams have a pretty bad rep.
“My ex-girlfriend and I tried dams for fun once but putting a sheet of latex over your lover’s bits is inherently a turn-off,” says Susie. “I’d read that you could suck it to form bubbles under the latex and it kind of felt good but it was a laugh, rather than anything erotic. We never wanted to do it again.”
Others were more adamant in their responses, with comments along the lines of, “they gross me out.”
Gryph says, “I generally consider myself to have good safe sex practices but dental dams is where I fall down. I can make condoms fun, gloves are hilarious, but a sliver of latex that looks like it belongs in the bin of a burns unit? No.”
Fourth-year dentistry student Anisha Gupta is not surprised by the general public’s attitudes towards dental dams. Gupta, a student at King’s College London, was inspired by the work of Kuang-Yi Ku, a Taiwanese dentist and artist who recently created an orthodontic retainer to increase pleasure during blowjobs. Gupta and fellow classmate Carly Billing set out on their mission to create a sexier, more appealing version of the dental dam.
“The main problem is that they are clumsy and unintuitive,” Gupta says. “Many don’t find them sexy, whether that’s the taste of rubber or the texture, and you have to hold it in place so you haven’t got your hands free. Having to faff about doesn’t exactly get everyone in the mood.”
The girls decided to try to design a dam that could be worn like a mask, which would eliminate the need to hold it down.
She says, “We wanted to make them pretty. By adding things like lace, frills, and the pink and black color scheme it’s not dissimilar to lingerie. We also looked at making them pleasurable as well as functional, so for the final design we incorporated a textured rubber. It’s actually cut from a pink swimming hat with bobbles on it!”
Gupta, a bisexual healthcare professional, says that the industry often overlooks women who have sex with women.
“A lot of the sexual health advice is marketed towards heterosexual couples, and the LGBT advice that does exist tends to focus on gay men,” she says. “Deciding to add more feminized details [to the protoype], such as the lace, was a deliberate attempt to address that.”
She acknowledges that most people don’t consider oral sex risky enough to use protection, but she hopes that her new sexed up dental dam may encourage women to use it for pleasure.
“Ideally we’d like it to be a registered medical device because as healthcare professionals that’s important to us,” she says. “But maybe the way to break in is to market it as a sex toy.”